Graphic courtesy of diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life
Graphic courtesy of diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life

Musicians, floats, dancers in costume and walking pilgrims will accompany the Antorchas Guadalupanas – Torches of Guadalupe – on Dec. 3 in Lakewood as they complete their seventh annual pilgrimage throughout the Diocese’s four counties.

Symbolizing devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and encouraging prayers for the faithfully departed in November, the torches will travel together with the various participating groups beginning at 8:30 a.m. at St. Mary of the Lake Church, 43 Madison Avenue. The route will be approximately three-and-a-half miles, ending at the Holy Family Chapel, 1139 East County Line Road. Performances by parish groups will take place from 11-11:45 a.m. outside the chapel.

Mass will be celebrated in the chapel at noon by Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, diocesan vicar general. Concelebrant will be Father Carlos Aguirre, pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, and homilist will be Divine Word Father Steban Michael, parochial vicar in Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park. The Mass will also be livestreamed on diocesan media sites.

A free shuttle bus will be available to help shuttle people from Holy Family Church to St. Mary of the Lake Church following Mass. St. Mary’s will also host a food sale afterwards in the church parking lot.

The journey began Oct. 29 in multiple parishes and schools. Eight parish torches visited 26 parishes throughout the Diocese during November. Respect Life groups from the four counties of the Diocese each took a torch to various locations throughout the month, while four torches accompanied Knights of Columbus councils to their meetings and events. Even a parish from the Archdiocese of Newark – Divine Mercy in Rahway – participated for the entire month.

“One person in Divine Mercy Parish learned about the torches when they came to St. Paul Parish in Princeton, and they wanted to be a part of it,” said Jossie Ramos, administrative assistant in the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life. “They kept the torch in their parish for the entire month, and the pastor allowed it to visit parishioners’ homes overnight.”

Josue Arriola, department director, anticipated the number of people participating in the Dec. 3 pilgrimage will surpass the 800 to 900 who have turned out in prior years.

“Last year was the first year the pilgrimage took place in Lakewood,” Arriola pointed out. Father Guilherme Andrino, pastor of Lakewood’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, shared with Arriola that the community there didn’t realize what was to take place right in their backyard. “He’s been promoting it in the area with the police department as well,” he continued, “so he thinks the entire community will turn out, and they are expecting about 1,300.”

As of publication, 16 parishes have committed to bringing floats for the procession. Many groups will plan performances along the route and in front of the Holy Family Chapel up until 11:45 a.m., when the doors will open for Mass. Additional areas outside the church and in the school gym will allow for livestream viewing of the Mass, and reception of Holy Communion.

“The whole community of Lakewood including police and parish support staff now know what [the pilgrimage] is and how to facilitate it,” Ramos said. “They think a step ahead, thinking of needs we hadn’t,” which included trash cans and portable restroom facilities along the route.

“We have worked with police officers before, but not at this level,” Arriola agreed. Ramos praised the assistance of Sgt. Frank Work, “who is so invested in what this [event] does for the community.”